UBC Okanagan students earn Public Anthropology awards

UBC Okanagan's Anthropology students were top performers in a major competition involving 4,000 students at 28 universities and colleges across North America this fall.

Taking part in the Public Anthropology Community Action project, students in the Anthropology 100 introductory course taught by Diana French, Associate Professor in Community, Culture and Global Studies, were challenged to write opinion-editorial (op-ed) pieces suitable for newspaper publication. The opinions focused on the plight of South America's Yanomami people, arguing for the return of Yanomami blood taken for research purposes in the 1960s, and currently stored in the United States.

Papers were peer-reviewed and 19 UBC Okanagan students were among the award recipients. The top UBC Okanagan student this term was first-year Arts student Cody Decker, who placed third out of 2,000 competitors from 18 post-secondary institutions.

In addition to performing well in the writing competition, UBC Okanagan students also published the highest number of op-eds at 50, finishing well ahead of Southern Methodist University with 40, and Indiana University with 17. UBC Okanagan students had the second-highest percentage of publications - nearly 27 per cent - just behind Southern Methodist University with almost 31 per cent.

For its efforts, the class receives a $1,000 award from the Centre for a Public Anthropology. The students have chosen to donate the money to a Yanomami non-governmental organization in Brazil for education and capacity building in their communities.

"I was especially pleased with the students this term," says French. "Not only were their written submissions thoughtful and creative, but their concern for the Yanomami was very genuine. The Yanomami will directly benefit from the students' commitment to the project, and the students themselves will exit their anthropology class with more than a grade, knowing that they have been good global citizens."

A link to the Public Anthropology website and the student opinion pieces can be found at: https://people.ok.ubc.ca/publicaffairs/news/anthro.

"Professor French has played an integral part in Public Anthropology's online student community, showcasing the ability of Okanagan students to learn effective writing skills while being active global citizens," says Rob Borofsky, Director of the Center for a Public Anthropology and Professor of Anthropology at Hawaii Pacific University.

"She demonstrates how combining technology with cultural concerns in academic courses positively engages students to participate in the broader world beyond their university, while gaining the skills needed for a productive, active life after graduation."

The 19 students receiving individual awards this year were Cody Decker, Kayla Bassett, Kayla Crouch, Breanne Lalonde, Ainsley Kling, Ben Trepanier, Tealya Metzger, Kurt Schoock, Jonathon Baron, Jackie Robertson, Kelsey Craig, Vitaly Ostroumov, Justin Druitt, Chelsea Heidebrecht, Danielle Ringuette, Andrew Williams, Amber Buxton, Christopher Carter, and Mary Mackenzie.

In 2008, students Ashlee Williams, Amy Grey and Tallina Wielders in Associate Professor Robin Dods' Anthropology 100 course were among the international competition's top 15 winners overall.

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